Imagine uploading your photos from your digital camera and from your mobile phone to Facebook and Flickr using the same software interface. Now imagine downloading a YouTube video to your phone by clicking a browser bookmarklet. You can do both in Dazzboard, a new media Webtop in open beta that fast-tracks your photos, songs, and videos to and from your mobile device to your computer or the online world.
There is a catch: the USB leash. You've got to plug the device into the computer via USB. The trade-off is being able to manage the phone's media content from a computer dashboard, which is infinitely more comfortable than managing it from the device's tiny interface. If you're not on the move, dashboards like Dazzboard offer most of the convenience of mobile management, and are overall much easier on the eye.
Here's how Dazzboard plays out. After registering for a free account, plug your device--like your mobile phone, digital MP3 player, or Sony PSP (or all three in succession)--into the computer by way of a USB cable. You may need to switch some devices, like BlackBerry and Windows Mobile phones, into mass storage mode for this to work (see FAQs). Dazzboard's "universal" device manager recognizes the device and lets you bilaterally interact with music, photos, and videos. You can upload content to the Web or to the PC, or quickly transfer media from your computer or from the Web to your device.
Dazzboard.com is a little clunky to maneuver. You'll need to click the black bar on the screen to open the device manager, and click again on one of the three media types to view the device's contents. If you want to add to it, you'll click a task on the right pane, which will transfer content from your computer to the phone. Uploading the media stored on the phone to a social Web site is perhaps even less intuitive. You'll need to click the file, then select the "transfer to" button, where you'll be able to log into Facebook, Flickr, Twitter, and YouTube to post photos and videos (we were only able to transfer MP3s back to the PC.) After queuing up the transfer manager, you'll need to click over to the Transfer screen and manually start the transfers. The media uploaded quickly, albeit to a Dazzboard folder in Facebook instead of to an album we chose, and did not automatically display the event in the profile feed.
In addition to the device manager, Dazzboard also poses as a media library where you can search a handful of photo, video, and music uploads to transfer to your device. Dazzboard also includes a few links out to other popular sites, but the handy bookmarklet it peddles will be its main vehicle for transporting Web content to your phone. You'll be prompted to drag the button to your bookmark bar and click it whenever you visit a site with compatible content. Requests will fill a transfer list and wait patiently until the next time you plug in your device.
In this early public beta stage, Dazzboard is burdened by some notable requirements and limitations. That USB dependency is the primary one. Dashwire, a Windows Mobile dashboard, had the right idea to sync content through a small client on the phone. This didn't require any proximity, and so gave its mobile maintenance a remote management flavor. However, the mobile client is platform-specific, which makes programming a pain. Dazzboard would do better enabling an ad-hoc Wi-Fi network to get the device and computer talking.
In addition, Dazzboard requires the Windows Media Player 11 browser plug-in, which it will prompt you to download if you don't have it. You'll also need to download Dazzboard's Windows plug-in, for Firefox 3.0 or later and Internet Explorer 6 or later. Its current list of supported devices is modest: Storm is the only BlackBerry product to make the list, and Windows Mobile phones will work only if mass storage mode is on, but not Active Sync (yet). iPhone isn't supported, and neither are most popular cameras, including our Canon Power Shot SD850 IS. Dazzboard is working on compatibility for Mac OS X.
Although it wasn't supported, we were still able to transfer all three content types flawlessly onto a BlackBerry Bold. We didn't have any success viewing the phone's media, however. There's a chance you'll luck out with your unsupported device if you try it, but of course, no guarantees. Despite the hiccups and hurdles, Dazzboard offers an intriguing solution for households and individuals with more than one device. We'll be keeping our eye on Dazzboard as it adds support for more devices and polishes its beta.
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